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The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

(The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 #1-7)

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  22,054 ratings  ·  1,480 reviews
Drawing on his own incarceration and exile, as well as on evidence from more than 200 fellow prisoners and Soviet archives, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn reveals the entire apparatus of Soviet repression—the state within the state that ruled all-powerfully. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims—men, women, and children—we encounter secret police operations, labo ...more
Paperback, Abridged Edition, 472 pages
Published February 1st 2002 by HarperCollins (first published 1973)
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Joy Schoenberger In the author's own words, "I gratefully accepted Professor Ericson's suggestion to create a one-volume abridgement of my three-volume work, The Gulag…moreIn the author's own words, "I gratefully accepted Professor Ericson's suggestion to create a one-volume abridgement of my three-volume work, The Gulag Archipelago, in order to facilitate its reading for those who do not have much time in this hectic century of ours."

The abridged version is still a monumental work, and well worth reading in its own right. I don't think it is any kind of insult to the author to read this edition. The only insult would be to hold what Solzhenitsyn called "this fallacious belief: 'It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.'" It is better to learn the lessons than not, whither they come from.(less)
Lyndon Moore There are a total of 3 volumes, all out of print. There are some re-prints and new editions of abridged versions out there. Seeing as how the author s…moreThere are a total of 3 volumes, all out of print. There are some re-prints and new editions of abridged versions out there. Seeing as how the author suffered terribly to write these books, they had to be hidden from the KGB, and people died in their creation, we owe it to the author to read the whole thing. (less)

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Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Solzhenitsyn systematically goes through the horrors of the Soviet slave labour camps, one of the blackest chapters in world history. I read this book as a teenager, not long after it came out, and I was appalled that my parents had presented the Soviet Union as anything other than a monstrosity. For some reason, leftist people wouldn't properly admit it for a long time. I still can't quite understand why.

If you feel any shadow of sympathy for Soviet Russia, read Solzhenitsyn and you will be cu
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can not in clear conscience say that I really like a book about Soviet Gulags. To be honest, I repeatedly reached my limit of emotional energy. The story of any one of the 20 million people directly affected would have more impact.

Oh, right. He tried that first, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. In a lot of ways, this a response to critics and deniers of his earlier book.
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I read this in 1974 in a bad situation in my life. This put "a bad situation" in America in a totally new light. I wish more Americans would listen and have listened to Solzhenitsyn.

Update: I don't know how many of you have followed the...discussion that has been going on here but it inspired me to extend this review a little. The above is the original review in which I simply urged people to read the book for themselves as it has much to say and is applicable in many ways to events happening no
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I began ploughing through this book in the dreary and climacteric era of my workplace coming of age.

A quickly-promoted amateur in a world of pros, I was fast falling out of my depth - and the deft irony of this book’s prose was no match for my witlessness.

This book probably acted as one of its precipitants. Who knows?

But, three years later, recuperating from the last of my fatal plummets, I met Fred.

Fred was a disproportionately effusive returner of favours, like me. And, like me, he was bipo
Mar 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody
Shelves: nonfiction
Given its historical importance, I fully expected that The Gulag Archipelago would be a lofty read. What I didn't expect was that it works so well as a story. Instead of being a straight history book, Gulag lies somewhere between journalism and history, and Solzhenitsyn's narrative voice is familiar and engaging. The book feels less like a history lesson, and more like a conversation with a good friend who knows how to put together and express an interesting, important, heartbreaking, and unforg ...more
One of my all time favorites.

One of the accounts from the book that still makes me laugh (you read that right, though I shouldn't really) is:

A political meeting was going on with about 1000 - 2000 people present in the hall somewhere in USSR (I can't recall the exact location and time of the event). Now the desiderata for survival in Stalin era was that everyone should stand up and clap their hands furiously at the mention of his name, and you don't want to be the one to stop clapping first. Thi
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russian
“Each of us is a center of the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you: “You are under arrest.” So Solzhenitsyn’s journey into the gulag began in 1945 where he spent eight years. This is a personal history by a survivor of the false arrest, the long prison sentence, the brutal dehumanizing treatment that sends shivers up the spine. Solzhenitsyn also reports the experiences of many others. Each report is heartfelt. Solzhenitsyn changed history by once and for all underminin ...more
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-history
A bleak and unremittingly grim account of the gulags between 1918 and 1956, narrative history rather than Solzhenitsyn’s usual literary voice. There are occasional flashes of hope and redemption, but these are few.
Solzhenitsyn provides a historical account reasoning through the state’s decision-making process and covering all the process of prison and exile from arrest to release (not so many reached release). There are detailed descriptions of the food, interrogations, torture, sanitary arrang
Petra X's driving in a Mustang GT to Key West
This is a wonderful book, but like many Russian authors, Solzhenitsyn goes on too long too often and all the excess verbiage takes away rather than adds to the enjoyment and understanding of the book. However this does not mean that some idiot librarian has the right to decide that all seven (I think it was 7) volumes of the book should be divided willy-nilly into just three volumes. So "The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books III-IV" has all sorts of vol ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I view people that cling to the tenets of communism the same way I view Holocaust deniers. From the Bolsheviks of 1917 to the turmoil in Venezuela of 2017; Communism is as Churchill said; the equal sharing of misery. The pages of Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize winning masterpiece are full of misery.

Solzhenitsyn paints a picture for the naïve westerner of the backbone and main pillar of Soviet Socialism: The gulag. The purpose of the network of gulags in the Soviet Union is to 1. Intimidate the mass
Sean Blake
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"They have tightly bound my body, but my soul is beyond their power."

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago is probably the greatest and most disturbing account of human rights violations and political oppression. Now I look around me and see other people stress over nothing, and am disgusted by their egotistical self-centeredness.
Amor Towles
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing


This summer, the Wall Street Journal asked me to pick five books I admired that were somehow reminiscent of A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW. To that end, I wrote on five works in which the action is confined to a small space, but in which the reader somehow experiences the world. Here is #3:

In 1945, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, an officer of the Russian army and recipient of the Order of the Red Star, was arrested for including criticisms of Stalin in his personal
Michael Perkins
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions! His rule: Let that come into the world, let it even reign supreme—only not through me.”



“Everything will be all right. And, even if it isn’t, we’ll have the consolation of having lived honest lives.”

― Alexei Navalny, imprisoned Russian dissident and critic of Putin


what Solzhenitsyn and Orwell knew.....

“Nothing makes with greater certainty the earth into a hell
Firstly a note on the edition - this is the ABRIDGED version, but it was authorised by the author, as the original runs to 1800 pages in some editions and would be too much for most non-specialised readers. On the whole I think the abridgement is impressive, but if you value your sanity, you should skip Jordan Peterson's introduction unless you like being talked down to by aggressively right wing Americans. I read the book for a discussion in the Reading the 20th Century group, and I am glad I d ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
I am surprised, no, shocked actually, at how perfectly constructed, researched and organized Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn's 'The Gulag Archipelago' is. He methodically describes the entire scheme developed in the Soviet Union from being arrested to examination and conviction in a legal court of judges to transportation to the awful Siberian prisons. Stalin perfected this legal political police state in order to legally murder or enslave millions of Russian citizens, but he only continued what other ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An eye-opening book, the first one that showed me what gulags were...
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the most monumental accounts of one of the cruellest ideologies of history,this book should be read by all
Layer by layer Solzhenitsyn exposes the hideous system of imprisonment ,death and torture that he refers to as the 'Gulag Archipelago'
He strips away that the misconception of the good Tsar Lenin betrayed by his evil heirs and exposes how it was Lenin and his henchmen who put into place the brutal totalitarianism , which would be inherited and continued by Stalin
In fact the only thing
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very tough read. The Gulag Archipelago (1973), is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's exhaustive account of the Soviet Gulags between 1918 and 1956.

It's almost unremittingly grim and is based on Solzhenitsyn's own years in labour camps and the testimony of around 200 survivors. The reader learns about the waves of mass arrests, the interrogations and torture techniques, adapting to life in the camps, the food, sanitary arrangements, executions, cells, the guards, the travel to/from camps, weather, cloth
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this with one of my Goodreads groups and I need to thank them, because, originally I was going to read the three volume version of this. I am never fond of abridged versions, but, said my lovely Goodreads friends, it is an approved version and, trust us, it is much the best version. Well, they were right. As always.

First of all, can I just say this is a seriously important book. It is a book which needed to be written. Not only is it the record of Solzhenitsyn's arrest, and time in the ca
John Farebrother
What can be said about this book (or books, it comes in three volumes) that hasn't already been said? As well as the inside story of Stalin's prison camp system, it's practically the author's autobiography, he spent so long in there (eight years, for criticising Stalin in a letter to a friend while fighting in the battle of Berlin) or campaigning against the system as a result of his experiences. The vastness of his work reflects the scale of the prison system, through which I've heard say up to ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: soviet-union
I was primarily drove to this book as a result of my interest in the Soviet Union and in the misfortunes of actual communism. But I think that the right way to see this book is through its spiritual insights. The experience in camp had a deep impact in Solzhenitsyn. I believe that nobody can pass for such experience and don't be affected in some way. The discussion of this topic, in particular, is done in the chapters 1 ("Ascent") and 2 ("Or Corruption?") from the part IV of the book ("The Soul ...more
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Gulag Archipelago was one of the most potent and touching books I have ever read. I laughed so I wouldn't cry. And on a roadway construction site at age 20, no less. I always list it any time someone asks for my favorite books, and it narrowly edges Homage to Catalonia for my favorite piece of non-fiction. It encompasses the absolute worst of human nature, the inconceivable tragedy of an intra-national genocide (for "security") on a greater scale than even the Holocaust, yet Solzhenitsyn is ...more
Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is an important, powerful book. If you are interested in 20th Century history or interested in the future of humanity - this book is required reading. Although this book played a significant role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its primary importance is the message it proclaims to the present and to the future.

Its message transcends time and place: It reveals the weakness of human character and the strength of the human spirit. It demonstrate
Leo Robertson
Undeniable as an important historical text—now, do you need to read important historical texts? That depends: what's your PhD on?

As long as you know, like, The Soviet Union had a fuckton of labour camps. They treated workers/prisoners very poorly and tortured them in imaginative ways. Nobody even bothered to prosecute the bastards that did it, stating that it would be "digging up history." An incredible, unfathomably disgusting and cruel era in history. How many have to die to prove that communi
Michael Perkins
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions! His rule: Let that come into the world, let it even reign supreme—only not through me.”

― Alexander Solschenizyn


“Everything will be all right. And, even if it isn’t, we’ll have the consolation of having lived honest lives.”

― Alexei Navalny, imprisoned Russian dissident and critic of Putin


new article: the author who brought down an empire...
An emotional ride as Solzhenitsyn charts the history of the Gulags, then goes through a sequence of retelling his and others experiences in pre-arrest mode, initial arrest and interrogation, sentencing, travelling to the camp, the various camps, escapes and revolts, release and exile and a review of what was happening in the mid-60s. How anyone survived this mad world amazes me. The author was flabbergasted himself as to some of the ridiculous ways his country treated his countrymen. Frightening ...more
A chilling account of life in the Gulag. And one that should be read by everyone.
Charlie Hasler
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bare with me here:

As I don't have a Kindle I took pictures on my phone of parts that stopped me dead. After further reading and picture taking I now have an Archipelago folder in my phone. I did this because the words and points made moved, so utterly shattered and moved me that I felt it so important I revisit these pages in the future.

The writing style reminded me of reading Henri Charrieres Papillon. Fast, too the point and powerful.

Probably one of the most important books I will ever read.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
(execrable) Anti communist fanfiction by the friend of Apartheid and Franco. Even Mrs. A.S. was surprised at the purchase of Solzhy's regurgitations. Everyone's a critic I suppose. ...more
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Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (Russian: Александр Иса́евич Солженицын) was a Soviet and Russian novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his writings he helped to make the world aware of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system—particularly The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, two of his best-known works.

Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in

Other books in the series

The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 (4 books)
  • Fängelseindustrin (Gulag-arkipelagen, #1)
  • Evig rörelse (Gulag-arkipelagen, #2)
  • The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books III-IV
  • The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books V-VII

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